Monday, March 18, 2013

The Ladies of Salem

To apply a broad label grouping Rob Zombie's influences, House of 1000 Corpses (2003, Rob Zombie) is very similar to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper) with its faux-final girl structure amid a backwoods cannibal family's home; The Devil's Rejects (2005, Zombie) feels a lot like The Hills Have Eyes (1977, Wes Craven) in that wholesome-valued type tourists are abducted by sadistic murderers in a Southwestern desert.

However, the Halloween films showed Zombie transitioning into a more cohesive visionary, in the sense that he turned more serious--Halloween II (2009, Zombie) is cold, and the violence isn't playful. And that film also benefits from Zombie's addition of a subjective dream in Myers' head that runs along with the actual chronological progression of the narrative. For those are his strengths (so far): visualizing fucked up rock n' roll/classic horror inspired set pieces, and, a straightforward plot of terror encroaching upon a final girl.

The Lords of Salem (2012, Zombie) is an onslaught of images for the sake of shock, violence, sex, satanic ritual, metal, and art--the pictures on display at this exhibition are fun, provocative, and inspired by classic Golden Age European horror. Rob Zombie respects vintage horror.

Plot is minimal. Sheri Moon Zombie stars as Heidi Hawthorne, a local DJ for a Salem, MA radio station who discovers a mysterious record by a band simply called "The Lords." The record has a strange effect on her and brings about strange hallucinations of a sacrilegious nature.

Once that's been established, nothing else really happens.

But, I'm not disappointed. At 90 minutes, and with a low budget, the tone is consistent: messed up. Let's say someone took Rosemary's Baby (1968, Roman Polanski) and decided to eliminate all of the plot except for the part about a coven abducting a young woman for a satanic ritual, and try to stretch out that ending and make it into its own spinoff. Because that's what The Lords of Salem is. The urban alienation is there, but Zombie doesn't know how to craft characters. His turf is exploitation though, so I'm not faulting him--I enjoy his stereotypes because at least they're markedly his own (even if I am a little over that Tarantino/Smith/Cody style of pop-naturalistic dialogue that has nothing to do with the plot.)

I admire the brazen quality of this sideshow, but I really can't stand all of the sequences that are imaginary in the first half seamlessly blending into those in the second half. I mean, this movie really doesn't commit itself to much aside from the aforementioned imagery.

So, I'd recommend this to anyone who's up for naked women, goats, chanting, and bizarre pagan fun. What little there is here works for me.

The music is excellent overall, especially the "Lords" drone metal track played several times throughout the movie--I got a kick out of its heaviness.


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